2018 Spells Trouble for the DNC

Image via CNBC

The Democrats are in dire straits in 2018, and it is all their fault.

David Wasserman of 538 recently wrote a very smart, yet at the same time very dumb, breakdown of what the 2018 midterms will probably look like: a bloodbath for Democrats.

Even with the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans seemingly doing everything possible to make everybody on Earth hate them, the math just doesn’t add up for the party of the “resistance.”

In the piece titled, “The Congressional Map Has A Record-Setting Bias Against Democrats,” Wasserman goes in-depth on how, not only is 2018 a bad cycle for Democrats in the Senate – they defend 25 of their 48 seats while only 8 Republicans are up for reelection – but also how “the pro-GOP biases in both chambers are at historic highs.”

He details how, while Democrats have been running the tables in states like California and New York as of late, “Republicans have made huge advances in small rural states – think Arkansas, North and South Dakota, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana and West Virginia — that wield disproportionate power in the upper chamber compared to their populations.”

This much is true. As is the fact that Republicans enjoy similar statistical advantages in the lower chamber that have allowed the median Congressional district to be far redder than the national popular vote in nearly every Presidential election since 1968 (before which such data is unavailable).

But Wasserman forgets to ask the most important question posed by his piece: Why? Why is it that the Congressional map – an inanimate object which neither feels nor has a political opinion – is so clearly out to get the Democrats?

The answer lies in the Constitution responsible for the way the Congressional map is drawn and in the words of those who wrote it.

The Framers – particularly James Madison – were particularly concerned about factions and tyranny of the majority. When they wrote the Constitution, they did not want one faction, strong in numbers but with values removed from the rest of the country’s, to run afoul of the rights of other groups. So, they put in place a system that ensured the voices of minority factions would not be drowned out.

Think about how we might decide to choose representatives today if the Constitution never existed. Isn’t it strange how the Maryland panhandle (that state’s 6th Congressional district) and south-central Texas (their 28th district) each have their own representative? Wouldn’t we want representatives in our national government to represent the interests of the nation as a whole?

Not exactly. Madison wrote in Federalist 10, “Liberty is to faction what air is to fire.” He and the rest of the Framers knew by creating a republic as large as ours, there would be dozens, hundreds or even more factions in every state vying for political clout, which can be a good thing. “Extend the sphere,” Madison continued, “and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that the majority of a whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens.” If we elected a legislature nationally, cities like New York and Los Angeles would be able to run up vote totals and install representatives who would be accountable to just their interests, thus defeating the purpose of having such a large and diverse republic.

While the majorities in large states might hold the most representation in the proportionally divided House, members from every region of every state can hold them in check. Voters from Cumberland, Maryland and Laredo, Texas are ensured their say in the national legislature, even if their interests don’t align with larger factions in other states, or even in their own.

The same general principle applies to the Senate, where the 585,000 people in Wyoming have the same representation as the 19,750,000 people in New York. Large populations in big cities on the coasts, many of which share similar experiences and thus mostly the same political inclinations, are kept in check by the overrepresentation of smaller groups in smaller states who otherwise might not be able to hold their own.

For Mr. Wasserman and others, it may be a tragedy that someone can win the presidential election without taking the popular vote, or for the Legislature is biased in favor of the political minorities. But they miss the point: the framers would be happy about that. This bias is the American system working exactly how it’s supposed to.

His statistical analysis of why the Democrats will struggle to take back the Senate and House in 2018 was spot on, but Wasserman is dead wrong when he says the map is the Democrats’ problem. The problem is that Democrats have chosen to espouse ridiculous positions on everything from sanctuary cities to the Second Amendment that alienate nearly everyone outside their urban strongholds.

Tyler Olson is a student at the Pennsylvania State University studying broadcast journalism and political science. He has written for The Daily Collegian.

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